A Silent Heart Attack
I was there for an echo-cardio stress test. My new physician has scheduled me for several long-overdue health maintenance tests, and this was one, most likely due to a recent rise in my blood pressure (which I have attributed to my gain of about twenty pounds over the past two years, ) The nurse explained the procedure and said she would do so again as it progressed, step by step, and I thanked her. It started with an EKG (and I don’t know why there is a K in there, instead of a C…) which went well. Next was an ultrasound of the heart.The usual ‘goop’ was applied, and the device began to circle across the left side of my chest. As the technician moved the device below my heart, she hit a sensitive spot, and I told her. She pulled away and then went back and hit it again. She decided then to have the doctor who would be reading the ultrasound to come in and look at it, now rather than later.
The doctor looked at the ultrasound monitor and agreed with the nurse that it was not going to be clear enough for him to make a comparison with the one that would follow the treadmill test, and that another test would be better and directed the tech. to call my doctor and suggest the alternative. He turned to me, then, and asked “When did you have a heart attack?” I thought I misunderstood his question, as he spoke softly and with an accent. I didn’t answer at first, and he repeated “When did you have the heart attack?” I replied to him, then, that I had never had a heart attack. “Yes, you did. There is evidence in the images.”
As we drove home, I tried and tried to remember an incidence that might have been a heart attack. Perhaps when I tripped up the back steps and landed hard on my chest, and stayed on the floor for a few minutes before rising, giving the pain time to pass? Could a fall like that cause a heart attack … and be over in those few minutes? Or could the repetitive nightly episodes of shortness of breath (when I laid down to sleep each night for a few weeks recently) have been a series of small heart attacks – my chest did tighten, side to side, during those episodes, but again, they each only lasted for a few minutes, and then my breathing evened out and remained steady as I fell asleep. That hasn’t happened in the past week – why would it have stopped? I had told our new doctor’s nurse practitioner of those episodes, but as they were brief I thought little of it.
I’ve certainly felt worse pain than either the fall or the breathing/squeezing episodes… I wondered, then, if I might have had a heart attack during a dream, and not realized that it was a real heart attack? My dreams are so vivid, I often am not sure whether they are dreams or reality, until I wake up from them. And even then, when I remember one, I’m not always sure that I am just remembering a dream, or remembering something that really happened and was forgotten for a while…
I’m scheduled to wear a heart monitor next week for a 24 hour period, and I’ll have the alternate stress/echo two-day test later in the week. I won’t know until I meet with the doctor after those test results, and others, are received. But I now know that my heart bears evidence of a heart attack that I don’t remember having. I don’t know yet whether the evidence is of past damage, or of ongoing damage. I wonder now if this is somehow related to the ongoing pain in my lower right ribs .. for which I am scheduled to have a full body bone scan the day before the heart monitor. But that pain is on my right side, not my heart side. It is sometimes a sharp pain, and sometimes an ache, and always hard to describe when asked to do so.
I’ll write more when I know more.
Until then, be well, all.